Sowing Seeds Of Health, Renewal

Oliver-area Residents Create Vegetable Garden, Urban Sanctuary In One Day

August 28, 2009|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,

Just add water.

That's all that was left for the residents of the East Baltimore neighborhood of Oliver to do after a vegetable garden and urban sanctuary were installed in a single day in a vacant lot in the 1300 block of N. Central Ave.

Eight raised beds were filled with clean soil and planted with 150 vegetable seedlings Thursday. Around the perimeter, 400 perennials, herbs and shrubs were planted, plus 30 trees to shield the oasis from traffic noise. All planted in time for Mayor Sheila Dixon to cut the ribbon at the end of the day.

"The vegetables that come out of this garden," said the mayor, "will help others make the change to greener and healthier living."

Fiskars, the Wisconsin-based garden tool company, Home Depot and the city of Baltimore provided the money and materials, and 200 volunteers provided the muscle to finish the stunning transformation in about 10 hours.

Still to come: a decorative iron fence with two gates and a number of benches.

"It is wonderful," said Lawrence Pully, 71, a retired shift commander for the Baltimore City Fire Department. He is president of the Oliver Community Association board and worked closely with Hope Williams of the city to get the neighborhood involved.

"I am hopeful that the community will embrace it and enjoy it and become a part of it."

The garden was designed by master gardener Joe Lamp'l, nationally known as "Joe Gardener," for Fiskars' "Orange Thumb" project. It is the sixth such garden Fiskars has installed nationally in partnership with Home Depot.

"We were looking for a city neighborhood that needed a boost," Lamp'l said in the shadows of the boarded-up buildings around the garden. Total spent: $94,000, about half of what such an installation should have cost, Lamp'l said.

The 82-by-62-foot lot was left vacant when rowhouses that once stood there were demolished. The volunteers spend the first part of their day pulling old bricks and cement from the ground.

The vegetable beds will be maintained and harvested by church, community association and business groups in the area, and by the residents themselves.

"It is all about working together," said Williams. She said the city will be able to provide grant money for more vegetables in the spring and for upkeep.

The city already has installed a water line and spigot for the new plantings.

Victoria Hughes, who works for Home Depot on Eastern Avenue and lives in West Baltimore, was beaming with pride after using a jackhammer to remove cement from old post holes on the lot.

"It was heavy," she said, laughing. "And harder than I thought. But I did it."

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